Parents in Virginia who are fed-up with the state’s largest school district suspending in-person learning are attempting to make history by submitting a school board member recall petition with thousands of signatures.
Fairfax County Circuit Court received the petition Monday, which was submitted by Open FCPS Coalition, “a bi-partisan, grassroots, volunteer group of concerned parents and citizens.” Parents accuse school board member Elaine Tholen of not doing her job adequately, particularly by voting against in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic for an entire year.
Over 5,000 signatures were affixed to the petition, whereas only about 3,500 were mandated for it to proceed to the next phase. While the board member is permitted under state law to urge the judge to disregard the petition, the judge would then be tasked with deciding to either hold a trial or dismiss it altogether.
Asra Nomani, a Fairfax parent who is also vice president of the group Parents Defending Education, told The Federalist the schools’ system has “been a nightmare.”
“This recall is just a reflection of parents’ frustration and outrage over a system that has become so corrupt that parents feel they have become so disenfranchised,” Nomani said.
Scott Mineo, a nearby Loudoun County resident and the founder of the group Parents Against Critical Race Theory, told The Federalist “the recall effort will be closely watched by those in Loudoun County.”
After news broke of the petition, Fairfax County Public Schools called the move “misguided” regardless of the “difficult decision” to keep schools shuttered. While Tholen is the sole target of the petition, Fairfax parents are actively acquiring signatures to recall two more board members: Laura Jane Cohen and Abrar Omeish.
Should Tholen be removed from her seat, a special election would be held in Fairfax.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Tholen said, “When almost 60 percent of the Dranesville district voters chose me, they knew I would stand up for their children’s interests and educational needs. … I look forward to continuing to earn my constituents’ trust and support as we prepare to welcome all students in person five days per week.”
In announcing the petition on Fox News, Zia Tompkins of Open FCPS Coalition said, “We’ve finally collected enough signatures to go to court today. The next step for this is the clerk will review the signatures. We’re pretty confident we will have a snap election here”
WATCH Zia Tompkins on @AmericaNewsroom, announcing the Open FCPS Coalition will submit signatures today requesting the recall of Elaine Tholen. The first of many to come in Northern VA! It's time to get politics out of our schools! #OpenFCPS #kidsoverpolitics #openschools #recall pic.twitter.com/9M2PWyOjyT
— Replace FCPS School Board (Open FCPS Coalition) (@fcpsopen) July 19, 2021
The unprecedented initiative comes on the heels of a video going viral of a Virginia parent-teacher association (PTA) official saying “let them die” about those who oppose critical race theory in Fairfax County. Shortly after, the official, Michelle Leete, was forced to resign from her post.
Parents who oppose critical race theory won seats on the board of a local Fairfax school last month. Fairfax’s board has not yet determined the operational mode for the upcoming academic year, but community members seek to ensure learning takes place in the physical classroom.